Is it true? Yes, it is true, and speaks volumes about the efforts by the forest department in conserving Tigers and wildlife in Kanha. While many talk about the number of Tigers poached this year, very few discuss the number of different Tigers being sighted. Thirty Three different Tigers, including 11 cubs, is a healthy number, and that too just in the tourism zone. Please remember that these are not the numbers given by the forest department. But these are the Tigers sighted by the tourists. There is a documental evidence of the same. Significantly, this has been recorded in just 45 days. Besides, it is also reported that there are two pregnant Tigresses in this list, hence this number of 33 Tigers is bound to go up further soon. These many different Tigers sighted in Kanha is indeed good news for Kanha.
In October 2016 we heard about two Tigers getting poached and one Tiger dying in territorial fight. While nothing can be done about saving Tigers in a territorial fight, but in poaching it was done. The poachers of one Tiger were caught within 30 hours of the Tiger being found dead. Such a prompt action by the department is commendable, suggests dedication of the team towards the cause. Four people involved in the crime were arrested. On investigation it was revealed that they were local villagers who had laid a trap to get a wild boar or some large herbivore. But the Tiger walked in the area and was trapped. Unfortunate but true. The second poaching case is being investigated still. It is a matter of concern but i would still like to compliment the department for keeping these numbers to minimum.
With 22 adults, and 11 cubs the times ahead for Kanha look good. These are only the tourism zone figures, and the tourism zone is about 20% of the total area of Kanha. The latest camera trap census estimated that Kanha has over 110 Tigers as on date. Of the total 22 adults sighted in the tourism zones of Mukki, Kanha, Kisli and Sarhi, there are 9 male Tigers. So the male to female ratio though not ideal, but it is close to being ideal. These are positive signs for the Tigers of Kanha.
Some experts had indicated that even if the Tigers disappear from rest of the protected areas, Kanha will still be amongst the last bastions of the Tiger besides Corbett. This forecast has been true so far, and i think it will remain true until something untoward happens.
List of Tigers sighted since October 2016 in Kanha include:
Rajaram aka Kingfisher (died in a territorial fight in October 2016)
Chotta Munna, aka Link 7
Jamun tola male
Karai ghati male aka Dabang
Choti mada with two cubs
Mahaveer feamle with 3 cubs
Distt line female
Link 8 female (pregnant)
Link 7 female with 4 cubs aka Mundi Dadar female
Unknown female with two cubs near Indri camp
Female near Chimta camp
Budbudi female, and
Jamun Talab female
Conserving Tigers is not an easy task by any yard of imagination. Tigers roam free in large areas without boundaries, and with no technological surveillance yet. It is heard that soon there will be Drones to monitor them. With many villages around the parks, highways, inadequate forest guards, bio mass dependancy, forests and wildife are a soft target. But the forest department works relentlessly. They risk their lives from dangerous predators, stay away from families so that the forests can be preserved. Their sacrifice is hardly seen forget being appreciated.
I pray that you are able to sight many Tigers on your visits to Kanha. But a humble request to you all that please enjoy the park in it’s entirety. Yearning for Tigers alone can be a tad disappointing, hence appreciate the smell, sight, and sounds of Kanha. Trust me, it will leave you enthralled.
Tigers of Kanha are known to be big in size. And, i am putting my neck on the block by making such a statement. But having observed Tigers for close to 28 years in many nationals parks (specially in the Central India highlands) i think this guy has it all going for him as far as size, strength, and stealth is concerned. Umarpani male, slightly premature to crown him as the future King of Kanha as there is some serious competition on the cards from Chotta Munna who is taking his father’s legacy very seriously.
A lot of this has to be dedicated to his genes. His forefathers have been dominating Tigers in Kanha for past generations. Let us see which lineage does he come from.
The lineage of Umarpani male:
Father is Munna, the legendary Tiger who has CAT spelt on his forehead. At 15 years of age, Munna is still controlling the main tourism zone of Kanha. The world knows him, and he needs o further introduction. Munna’s father also known as the Limping male was one of the dominating and a huge Tiger before Munna.
Mother is Umarpani female, the daughter of Banda, the dominant male Tiger of Kanha before Munna, and Sonapani female, who in turn is the sister of legendary Laxmi (not same litter). This is the reason for her size. Her size confused people with a male Tiger quote often. So her genes come from dominating male and popular Tigresses of Kanha.
He was born around Nov 2009, they were two brothers and sister in the litter. The other male cub was even bigger than him. He was shaping up well until about 2 years old when tragedy struck. When and where he disappeared alongwith his sister none know. Umarpani male is the smaller of the two brothers. At times i wonder if his brother was around what would have been his size.
My first sighting of Umarpani male was in December 2014. I mostly followed him from behind, and only for few seconds i was able to take some of his side flanks. He was about 5 years at that age. His muscular build was very obvious.
Then i saw him in June 2015. Behold, I was in a state of shock when he turned to look at me. I skipped a heartbeat or two. Never before any Tiger seemed so big to me. From close quarters lot of Tigers look big. But this fellow’s largeness was evident even from a distance. It was not only his size that stole my heart, but his looks, and presence are of a killing machine. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity of photographing Umarpani male for 30 minutes or more. But after that sighting i thought if i do not see Tigers for next 2 years i am fine, as i thought i had seen the best.
Who is bigger Munna or Umarpani male?
Today when i sit back and compare both these big Tigers, Umarpani male outshines Munna very comfortably in size, and semblance. And this i am comparing Munna in his prime. The skull of Munna is big, but Umarpani male’s skull is bigger, wider, and with a larger circumference. Though the height and length of both would be similar, but sheer compactness and crassitude of Umarpani puts him in a class of his own. His overall bone structure, bigger limb bones, and wider skeleton puts him on a pedestal where his huge father starts to look minor in size compared to him.
After all Umarpani male has the advantage of his mother’s genes as well. She was one of the largest Tigress of Kanha ever.
Umarpani vs Bheema
Bheema is thinner, infact much thinner compared to Umarpani male. They might seem to be of same height and length but girth wise Umarpani male outclasses him. Bheema’s bone structure is lean, smaller frame compared to Umarpani. And his skull lacks the monstrosity of Umarpani. Bheema weighed 225kgs when he was just 2.5yrs old (vs Jai 220kgs full grown). Bheema with his winter coat would be 280kgs plus, and yet Umarpani male outmatches him in summer. Now again for a moment think about Umarpani’s brother who was even bigger than him. What a loss to Kanha by his mystifying disappearance.
Umarpani vs Rajaram (Kingfisher)
I have been a fan of Kingfisher too as he was a peaceful Tiger who in terms of size looked similar from a distance. He like Chotta Munna gave ample opportunities to tourists to see him from close quarters. But as one would look at him closely he seemed like a Tiger on steroids. He was shorter in height compared to Uma male. Maybe hence he lacked the core muscles and his belly literally touched the ground. Length-wise also he was smaller than Bheema and Uma male. When someone saw him with a full belly he looked like a big Tiger, while he was actually a big belly Tiger. Also from the Tiger point of view he did not have the cuts and contour of a competitive cat. He seemed to be lot of fat, and lacked muscular manifest.
The fatal fight, October 2016: Umarpani male vs Rajaram
Umarpani had a close skirmish with Rajaram in January 2015, wherein he got Rajaram to retreat. Though both seemed to have some injuries, but Rajaram left his area, and stayed away. So Uma male had a measure of him from the past fights while Chotta Munna did not. So had it been Chotta Munna in the territorial fight even he would have sustained injuries. But Uma male had the knowledge of the mass and might of Rajaram so it was most likely him, and only him who could have given the fateful bite.
Another point that would point towards this direction is that the fight most likely did not last long. Uma male nailed him fast and furious, cause had it lasted long even Umarpani male would have sustained injuries, which he did not. He was sighted a couple of days later moving quite briskly by the forest department.
Above fight between the two was in January 2015.
No one has any evidence of the fight of October 2016, as it was seen by none. But the past records, and strength of Umarpani male tilt indication towards him. He usually avoids limelight, and prefers giving the tourist vehicles a skip. Uma male is mostly sighted crossing the tracks, even if he follows a vehicle it is not for a great distance. But this behavior might undergo some change now and people might start seeing him more. As killing Rajaram has given him extra expanse in territory, and confidence for sure.
Umarpani vs Chotta Munna (Link 7)
This will be the comparison for the future, or fight for the No 1 slot. Chotta Munna has the attitude of his father. He has gained in size over last 4-5 months. But being younger to Umarpani male would most likely be a tad deficient in strength as on date. But Chotta Munna seems to be catching the eye balls of everyone as he is one tourist friendly Tiger. On the contrary Umarpani male is shy.
With Rajaram out of the equation, it is but natural that Umarpani and Chotta Munna will expand their territory. It cannot now be ruled out that Kanha might witness another superiority sparring between these two males in the near future. It is unlikely that anyone will lose easily without giving the other some serious agony. I would pray that they both survive in case such a situation arises, as both are very strong contenders to be the next Legend of Kanha after Munna. May the strong genes of Tigers of Kanha prosper far and wide.
I would like to thank Minh Ha and Naren Malik for providing some crucial information on lineage, and Naren for some images as well. A special mention here for Minh Ha whose knowledge on Tigers of India is nothing short than encyclopedic. He is an inspiration to many.
Kanha national park in central India is starting Night Safaris in the buffer zone. Only time will tell if this is a good, bad or an ugly decision. Let us not jump the gun in ridiculing the step, neither let us support it with closed eyes, let us try and understand the pros and cons of starting Night Safaris in Kanha. This has been tried in Satpura and Pench National Parks already, and now being brought to Kanha.
It is always better to know the negative and flip side first, followed by the positive side too.
Negatives of promoting Night Safaris in Kanha
Having personally done a night safari of about 2 hours in Satpura i know for sure that it is not easy to sight Tigers, or any other wildlife with naked eyes in the pitch dark of a forest. Either one needs to go in with the night vision glasses, which are not easily or cheaply available, or one needs a search light to see the animals. Please note one needs a serious search light in the night of the forest. Now, what do you think will this powerful search light do; it will make tracking animals easy, and it will hurt the animal eyes for sure, resulting in temporary blindness. So, we need to ask this question, is it worth it, is it required?
What if poachers also book these safaris in the buffer zone, to try and pick on the animals? Hopefully the forest department has thought about the repercussion and has a solution for this.
Will the night safaris not change the behavioral aspects of the animals? It is a known fact that the herbivores usually come out in the grasslands, or in the fields of the villagers in the buffer to feed on the crops. So when the flashlights start running around in the night, will they be able to eat in peace? The counter to this is that herbivores eat during the day in the grasslands. But not so in the buffer zones. We see them eating in the grasslands in the core zones of the forest as they are usually not disturbed in the vast grasslands of the core zone. But in the buffer area, the grasslands are not as big, the fields near the villages are small. So my gut feel is that the night safaris might disturb the feeding habits of the herbivores.
Positives of Nights Safaris in Kanha
I recently read news that some poaching has happened in the buffer areas of Kanha. So the night safari will deter the poachers to stay away from the buffer zones for sure. It is a noted fact that most of the poaching happens in the buffer. While there is regular patrolling happening by the forest department and also the tourist vehicles, there is no patrolling but the tourist vehicles in the buffer zones. Hence these zones are far more susceptible for poaching. Hence any movement of tourism in the buffer zones will be a deterrent to the poachers. If done and controlled well, this can be the trump card of the forest department to curtail poaching.
It surely will be a revenue generator as well for the forest department and they can utilize this revenue towards conservation of the flora and fauna.
There are plenty of buffer areas in Kanha, like the Baisan ghat area, Samnapur area, area between Banjar river and Bamni. There is presence of Tigers in these buffers, hence any safaris during the day or night here will be only beneficial.
Suggested steps if taken by the forest department may optimally utilize the night safaris.
The tourists will need to be briefed about the code of conduct in the night safaris in Kanha.
There must be standardization of search lights that should be used.
Ideally a forest guard must accompany the tourists to ensure discipline during the safari.
Hope this initiative of night safaris in Kanha is a huge success in conserving the flora and fauna of Kanha.
Whenever you go to a National Park, apart from safaris, keep aside a day to know the ecology, the economy, and the electorate of the area. This will make your tour far more enriching, and memorable. As they say no trip is complete if there isn’t any adventure and learning. So, while Safaris take care of the adventure, you need to explore the area for self learning and self development. Here are some interesting stories about Kanha.
Kanha in Dwapara Yuga
All our national parks have some history, and some mythology attached. Kanha National Park is also one such park. Some people say Kanha got it’s name from the type of soil in the area, the black clayey soil. While some say there was a holy sage named Kanva who lived here. He was the father of Shakuntala. One can read more about Shakuntala in “Abhigyanshakuntalam” by Kalidas. Story goes that King Dushyant came, saw and was captivated by the beauty of Shakuntala. They had a son through their wedlock named Bharata, who became the founder of Bharata dynasty. Kauravas and Pandavas were descendants of this dynasty. All this happened in the Dwapara Yuga. Lord Krishna an Avatar of Vishnu had incarnated in this Yuga. The sage Kanva lived in this region, and his hermitage was called Kanha.
Kanha in Treta Yuga
Prior to Dwapara was Treta Yuga. The Yuga in which Lord Ram came as an Avatar. This Yuga saw the story of Ramayan. It is said, that King Dashrath, the father of Ram used to frequent Kanha for hunting. He was an accomplished archer who could hit the target just by listening to the sound from the area.
One fine day he killed Shravan Kumar who was filling water from a water hole for his thirsty parents. The sound made by the empty vessel in water made King Dashrath think that there was some deer in water. He shot an arrow following the sound, and it hit Shravan Kumar, who died instantly. On realizing his folly he apologized to his parents. They lit his pyre and cursed the King that he will also die longing for his son in his old age. And so it happened. The area where his pyre was lit is known as Shravan Chita, and the water hole where Shravan Kumar died is known as Shravan Taal. Today this Shravan Taal is often frequented by Tigers.
Lapsi Hunter in Kanha
Then there is this wonderful story of Lapsi the Hunter. He was a proficient hunter who used bow and arrow to kill the man-eating Tigers in the area. Britishers were controlling the forests via the Imperial Forest Services which was set up by them India in 1865. They basically conserved forests, and managed timber. Lot of felling of sal trees was done in setting up of Indian Railways. Kanha in particular saw a lot of felling of trees in the early 20th century. The boom years for Indian Railways were from 1920 till 1929. This was the time when services of Lapsi hunter were utilized by the Britishers in killing of Tigers for hunting, sport, or even the man eating Tigers. Lapsi was a professional hunter who hailed from a family of hunters.
Once lot of complaints came of a Tiger killing cattle unabatedly and even some villagers. Lapsi heard of the news. He reached the spot, tried lot of tricks to fool the Tiger, but Tiger was much smarter. His wife was very concerned as his reputation as a hunter was going down. So she asked him to tie her as a bait in the area. He refused, but she argued. Finally she was tied to the tree, while Lapsi waited on the nearby machan (watch tower). The Tiger arrived, and Lapsi shot the arrow, which injured the Tiger. But the Tiger in a fit of rage attached his wife. Seeing this Lapsi panicked, and he rushed towards the Tiger with his dagger. Fought ferociously and killed the Tiger. Later Lapsi also succumbed to his injuries.
He and his wife’s grave is now present in the area in Mukki zone of Kanha National Park. This incident happened in late 1920’s.
Meeting Chotey Lal in Kanha–today’s Yuga
I personally had an opportunity to meet a man who fought a Tiger. Chotey Lal, a resident near a village in the Mukki zone.. Once in the evening he alongwith some friends, was picking some wood close to his forest, when he was charged by a Tigress. On seeing the charge his friends ran away, and Chotey Lal was hit by the Tigress on his head. He fell, but got up, and pushed the Tigress off him, infact he managed to hit the Tigress with his both hands on her head. Before a Tigress could further retaliate, he quickly climbed the tree nearby. His whole night was spent on the tree, and Tigress below the tree. Only in the morning when some people came looking for him, he came down, and narrated the incident.
There are so many stories, folklore, and information on Kanha that it will be really tough to write them all here. I urge all of you to explore all the national parks you stay in beyond Tigers. Kanha is a very special park, and one can feel it the moment you enter it. So, explore it in totality.
Doing #Tiger #Safari in India for the first time? Yes, then first things first, have you chosen the top Tiger #National #Parks you wish to visit? No, then please go through this link below, and subsequently it is important to understand the concept of premium zones.
Next, if you choose to visit these parks, which zones you should be doing safaris in? What are the premium zones? The name sounds, that all Tigers are in the #PremiumZones? NO, not true. Simple reason is that #Tigers do not know which are premium zones in the national parks.
In the Top 3 Tiger National Parks in India, there are two parks which have premium zones, namely, #TalaZone in Bandhavgarh National Park, and #KanhaZone in Kanha National Park.
What are the premium zones?
The concept of premium zones was started by the Forest department when they realized that the Tiger sightings were very good in certain parts/zones of the park. This resulted in lot of tourists gathering in those parts and not visiting the other areas. So the forest department did a good thing to dissuade the tourists. They increased the rates of those zones. In Tala zone they doubled the rate, and in Kanha zone they hiked it by 50%. This was a huge step which paid off, and the general tourists started to do other zones also, and during the visit to the park they would perhaps visit the premium zone once or max twice only.
But the things changed. Wildlife is ever changing, new Tigers come, old one’s move away, new cubs come, etc, and the dynamics of the park change every 2 years literally. Hence the two zones which were tagged as premium suffered a lot in the year 2014, and 2015, the Tiger sightings dipped. The normal zones of #Mukki zone and #Kisli zone in #Kanha started to perform, while #Magdhi zone and #Khitauli zone did well in #Bandhavgarh. Please read our year summaries of these two parks in my previous blog posts of July.
To ensure you do safaris in the right zones, where your chances of #TigerSightings are maximum you need to book your tour with the company which has ears in the national parks, and hands driving the Jeeps in these parks. Our resident naturalists in these parks are clued on to daily sightings, hence our guests have had some amazing Tiger sightings in the past season. To see some of the Tiger images of our guests, please see the link below:
Kanha National Park opened on 1st October, and my first safari was on the 2nd. After roaming for around two hours we were having breakfast in Sondar camp. My guide heard a frantic Sambar’s alarm call from Baiga nallah side and said, pack up. Without wasting time we rushed towards the nallah, parked our vehicle on Moala road and within five minutes a huge male came on road and started walking in front of us. Some guides said, it’s Umarpani and some said it is Link 7 but without delay I recognised it to be the Kingfisher male with a full belly and bulky size. First sighting of the season after the break of 3 months is always rejoicing.
It is very difficult to know tiger movement just after monsoon, as some Tigers change their territory while some migrate to other areas. It takes time to understand the Tiger movement after three months of monsoon break.
This season I did 356 drives just like the last season. Like last year this year has also been a great year for tiger sightings. There has been a slow but steady growth of Tiger sightings over last 10 years. Reason is simple. Since 2012 the Tiger show on Elephant back stopped. This resulted in compulsory tracking by the Jeep wallahs. Earlier they used to just wait for the Tiger to be tracked by the Mahouts, an once tracked they would park their vehicle in that area. But now, they must continue to track if they want their guests to be happy.
Mukki zone in Kanha National Park
Mukki in particular has been the pick of the zones in Kanha National Park in terms of tiger sightings. Four big males are beautifully co-existing with five females in a relatively small area.Mukki zone is the most sensational zone of the park in term of tiger sightings. It is quite surprising to see four male Tigers fitting in such a small zone. After seeing some fights last season between these males everyone was afraid that few of them might now survive the monsoon. But they all showed up in October to the pleasant surprise of everyone. Mahaveer female was seen with four tiny cubs, no doubt they are sired by Kingfisher male.
Big males of Mukki zone in Kanha National Park
Bheema, Kingfisher, Link 7, and Umarpani males are the big four of Mukki. Bheema looked more confident this season as he stared expanding his territory while Link 7 seemed more wiser. This season there was a fight between Bheema and Umarpani in January. Bheema was in mating with Dhawajhandi female (daughter of BT female) in April. But Link 7 had mated with her a few days back, so he came and fought with him. Link 7 had skirmishes with all three males since he was seen with some minor injuries most of time. Choti mada has also three small cubs fathered by Umarpani male. Both male looked very protective, most of time they were with their female and cubs.
Kingfisher male has gained quite a lot of muscle mass, and territory. But he is a warrior who avoids any confrontation. When Link 7 came to Umarjhola talao, Kingfisher pushed him away and stayed there for three days to ensure that he does not come back. Umarjhola female had mated with Link 7 earlier in October and in June she was seen with Kingfisher male. It was quite surprising to see Bheema in Minkur anicut which is Umarpani’s main area. Minkur had been a place where all four male Tigers were sighted in spaced out time zones. There was one more female sighted in district line having cubs but no one saw the cubs. Hence it is difficult to say how many she has. Overall for Mukki this was a great season as expected.
Kanha zone in Kanha National Park
Kanha hd a tough last season in terms of Tiger sightings. But it showed sparks of revival with Link 7 female frequently sighted with her four cubs. Surprisingly all cubs are male.
Neelam, the collared tigress was sighted with two cubs last season. She lost one male cub in starting of the season to a male tiger and towards the end of season she lost the second cub also. The second cub was killed by Link 8 female (half sister of Neelam). A male called Bajarang (Bheema’s brother) has taken over the Kanha meadow this season and indulged in a fight with Bamnidadar male in December. He proved his supremacy and Bamni Dadar male had to leave the meadow. The queen of Kanha meadow Umarpani female was not sighted this season, she had successfully raised so many cubs in Kanha and was old enough to survive. She has left her legacy behind in a male with huge head in Mukki, known as Umarpani male. The other male called red eyed was also not sighted this season who used to visit meadow frequently.
Kisli zone in Kanha National Park
It is always interesting to see new tigers in park. This season a male was sighted between Nakti ghati and district line. After a few days he moved towards Kisli and was seen on Chimta camp-Dhawajhandi road and then sighted in Raja Kachar area. As per the forest officials, it was a transient male who came from Supkhar and was trying to settle down in the area. As Mukki zone already had four males so he moved in Kisli zone and by the end of the season he had occupied part of Kisli. He was seen in a fight with Budbudi female who was nursing four cubs in that area. Unfortunately he killed one cub of Budbudi female to mate her so the female had to leave that area to save her cubs.
Kisli zone on the other hand, also improved on the sightings. The beginning of the season was not good in Kisli. But there was a dramatic change towards the end of the season and tigers were sighted everywhere in that small zone. Bheema was a frequent flyer till Chimta camp from Mukki to Kisli just like last season.
Munna the legend of Kanha National Park
The leading star of zone was again Munna, most beloved tiger of the park who never disappointed any tourist. But he is aging now, one could see the broken canine and wrinkles on his body. He is 14-15 yrs old, which is old age for a wild tiger to survive in the wild. Munna was sighted in, Digdola, Silyari, Saunf, Ronda and Bandri Behra area. By the end of the season, he moved towards Kisli talab area near Kisli gate as Bandribehra male (son of jamun talab female) started visiting silyari area. Munna avoided any interactions with him at this age. Karaighati male another aggressive male of this zone covers till magar nallah. Supkhar male was also sighted in kisli talab area so it would be difficult for Munna to sustain in Kisli as there are too many Tiger in a small area.
But this iconic male has ruled every inch of park (mukki-kanha-sarhi-kisli) and has been a celebrity in past years, one of the boldest tiger anyone has seen with CAT written on his forehead. This magnificent male has left his legacy behind and he will be remembered as an iconic Tiger of Kanha.
Kankatta, another warrior of Kanha was seen two to three times this season but after February he vanished from the park and was never sighted again. In his absence new tigers like Supkhar male and Bandribehra male had a chance to take over his territory. Budbudi female’s previous litter dispersed and spread out, one of her male cub’s was sighted in Kanha meadow too.
Next season in Kanha National Park
Next season in Kanha National Park is expected to rock again as many Tigresses are with cubs in all zones. Mukki would hopefully be the pick of all zones due to four males and three females with cubs. Kanha zone wouldn’t be far behind as Link 7 female has four male cubs. Kisli zone would be attraction of the park and new males will try to take it over in absence of Munna and Kankata!